How safe is your child's day care?
It's a question that's hugely important to any parent who entrusts a child to the care of professional caregivers. Until now, however, the state did not provide parents easy access to information about what inspectors found inside the state's child care centers.
Starting this month, the Tennessee Department of Human Services has begun posting all violations found at state-licensed child care providers on its website.
The new reports show spotless records for many East Tennessee day cares. 10News reviewed Knox County's 235 day care violations. There were some violations of concern including: day cares not reporting children biting, not changing wet diapers, inspectors observing children eating off dirty floors and tables, broken glass and parts on a playground, and children left unsupervised on the playground.
They also reveal scores of disturbing violations in Middle Tennessee day cares.
Those include dirty changing tables, children left unsupervised, caretakers slapping toddlers and subjecting young children to inappropriately long "time-outs," and infants put to sleep on their stomachs instead of their backs — a practice linked to sudden infant death syndrome.
Knoxville Moms blogger Christina Honkonen calls the new tool "invaluable." She didn't have it when she was searching for a day care for her now 8-month-old.
"To date I've visited eight day cares in the area. It was quite the process probably more than anything else I spent time on in preparation of my child aside from labor was day care. It was that big of a deal," said Honkonen.
She appreciates the fact that she can check in to see how her day care is stacking up on investigations.
"I can get on and in less than five minutes I was able to identify and find my daycare and look at any violations that they've had, identify if it was an issue to me, if I needed to take further steps. That is so perfect for an active mom or dad," she said.
She added that her child's day care had no issues that concerned her.
The newly posted reports don't go as far as those of 32 other states, which post their full inspection reports online. Those reports provide more details about what the inspector found, as well as information about whether a child-care center was fined, put on probation or suspended. The Department of Human Services also doesn't do what 28 other states routinely do: post every complaint against a child-care center on its website.
To get that information, parents must contact a program evaluator listed on the child-care center's report.
Department officials said they began posting new information because they "wanted to provide another tool to assist parents in choosing child care." Additionally, they noted, such information is soon expected to become a federal requirement.
Finding child care center's violation history
• Log on to http://tennessee.gov/humanserv/adfam/ccfcc.html.
• Locate your child care center.
• Select "compliance history" for a PDF of the report listing violations.
Licensed child care providers are subject to unannounced visits at a minimum of 4 to 6 times per year. DHS Child Care Licensing Program Evaluators conduct the monitoring visit.